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By Jason Offutt
I don’t know what my wife was thinking, which is fair enough, I suppose. I baffle her daily with the odd things I do, some of which can best be described as ill-conceived. And that’s being nice.
I’m not sure where she was coming from with this though. I mean, has she seen our children?
“I want to get the kids a Magic 8 Ball,” she told me on our weekly trip to the store, so we bought one.
On the surface, a Magic 8 Ball sounded like fun. I pictured the kids asking a few silly questions like, “Will we get extra TV time?” “Is Mom going to bake cookies?” and “Will Dad play a Pokémon game with me?” answered with It is certain, Signs point to yes, and Reply hazy try again. What could go wrong?”
The Boy: “Mom, it’s my turn with the 8 Ball.”
The Girl: “No, it’s not.”
The Boy: “You’ve had it for an hour.”
The Girl: “Just one more question. Is my brother a big ape?”
The Boy: “You’re stupid.”
The Girl: “You’re stupider.”
It just devolved from there.
The Boy and the Girl are two years apart. Just close enough to like many of the same things, but just far enough to hate the fact that they like many of the same things. The result is our kids get into more fights than British soccer fans.
“Didn’t you know that was going to happen?” I asked, prying the two children apart. It would have been a shame if they’d have dropped and broken the Magic 8 Ball right then. Yep, just a shame.
“Maybe,” she said.
We’ve tried shared toys before. The grandparents once bought them a snowball thrower, which ended in violence and tears. We’ve given them board games, which ended in violence and tears. For Christmas we bought them a video game, which also ended in violence and tears.
There’s a theme here. Our kids are as friendly toward each other as betta fish. You know the fish, the kind that look adorable at the store, but when put in the same bowl they chew on each other in front of your crying, terrified children. Pet stores probably wouldn’t sell as many if they advertised bettas by their original name, Siamese Fighting Fish.
Yes, those are our children.
“Give it a few days,” she told me. “Once the new wears off, they’ll stop fighting over it.”
She was right. Much like the other shared toys, they sort of forgot about the Magic 8 Ball until one day I noticed the Girl playing with it. She sat on the living room floor holding the ball in her lap.
“Someday,” she said, her eyes closed as if praying, “will I have a tank top?”
Then she shook the ball and looked for her answer.
“Daddy,” she said. “The Magic 8 Ball said Without a doubt.”
A tank top? She’s seven. Was the Magic 8 Ball a bad idea?
Signs point to yes.
Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An epic beer run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at amazon.com.